Party Damage Issues Resurface After Paint Party

On Friday, March 30, Claremont McKenna woke up to a colorful campus. Quite literally, sloppy swathes of brightly colored paint reached as far as the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum, splattering sidewalks, benches, and even plant life throughout CMC's campus. The messy paint job was a result of the previous night’s Thursday Night Club (TNC), a weekly party sponsored by CMC’s associated student government, ASCMC. The event, which boasted a DJ, beer, and of course, bottles and bottles of paint, was open to students from all five Claremont Colleges and took place at CMC’s eastern tennis courts.

Even without the addition of paint, TNCs have a reputation of leaving behind quite a wake of debris. Director of Facilities and Campus Services (Story House) Brian Worley explains, “Each party has its own gestalt in the aftermath.”

But the paint party had a gestalt all its own. Worley remarked that in all his time at CMC (5 years, to be exact), he had never seen a “Paint Party” TNC requiring a comparable clean up effort. The clean up, which began the next morning, has meant repeated power-washings of cement sidewalks and the repainting of benches near the tennis courts. Over a week later, the clean up is still incomplete.

PAINT IT RED

This is not great news for ASCMC—and its budget. So far, Facilities has billed ASCMC for $612 worth of damages from Thursday’s Paint Party, but the final tally could be upwards of that.

Alexandra Cooke, former ASCMC Student Life Chair and current Dorm Activities Chair, led the Paint Party planning efforts and said the event cost ASCMC about $500 to host. When combined with the damage costs, this means ASCMC is paying over $1,100 in student funds for one night of brightly colored debauchery.

The cost of the paint itself--about $300--is the average cost of throwing a regular TNC, estimates Cooke. "We were willing to spend more on a 5C TNC," she explained, "because there will be more people in attendance, and therefore, more people enjoying the event."

Cooke notes that the outcome of the Paint Party shouldn't be a shock to anyone at Story House or in the Dean of Students office. She says ASCMC made clear the details of the event to both Facilities and Assistant Dean and Director of Student Activities Jim Nauls.

“They understood the nature of the event,” said Cooke, “and that there would be damages. If there had been adamant resistance, we would have taken that into account and restructured the party or reconsidered the theme.”

Indeed, the aftermath of the Paint Party is somewhat unsurprising. The combination of free booze, paint, and college kids does not bode well for cleanliness. However, in previous years, the party was more successful at managing to limit destruction to campus property.

Worley recalls a Paint Party held a few years ago in McKenna Auditorium, where the party sponsors laid out plastic sheeting throughout the enclosed space. This meant paint-splattered surfaces could be balled up and thrown away, without causing any damage to the wooden floors and walls.

According to Worley, Story House offered the party sponsors a water hose to facilitate clean-up during Thursday's party, but no one from ASCMC ever retrieved it from the offices. Cooke noted that in the future, ASCMC will look into the possibility of a "clean up/wash station" for party guests to de-paint before leaving the venue and heading home.

BILLS, BILLS, BILLS

While the paint damages are certainly costly, some of the most expensive TNC-related charges ASCMC has paid have been the result of stolen campus property or the removal of furniture from a party space—both of which count as vandalism, according to Story House.

In January of last year, Story House charged ASCMC over $355 in damages for “several lights” missing from Fawcett Hall’s first floor lounge following a TNC event. For the same event, Story House billed ASCMC for $144 for 8 building attendants to return all lounge furniture from outside the building to its proper place.

"If the damages are in a dorm where TNC takes place," says Cooke, "then ASCMC will be charged. If the damage is in a dorm that wasn't where TNC was located, then the dorm is charged."

This school year, the most expensive single charge for a TNC event has been $428 worth of carpet damage in CMC’s newest dorm, Claremont Hall. The figure includes the cost of replacing the damaged carpet as well as the cost of hiring a professional carpet cleaning company to remove the stain.

In some instances, it is difficult to attribute costs directly to the party sponsors, and Story House’s billing policies have come under fire by students at ASCMC.

Jessica Mao, former ASCMC President, expressed frustration over the billing system, saying, "I think there needs to be a more structured system of payment and damage disputing between ASCMC and Story House. It seems ridiculous to have this accumulation of bills happen every few years when both sides could easily do a better job of sorting them out."

With the ASCMC Financial Advisor now acting as a direct liaison between students and Story House, says Mao, "charges that don't seem accurate can be caught right away as opposed to 2 years after a party happened."

Worley understands the difficulty in ascribing damages to students. He offered the example of damage from a 5-College event held just after the Paint Party on Saturday, March 31. On Sunday morning, broken bottles littered the street between CMC and Scripps College, which co-sponsored and hosted the party.

“I don’t believe we will be billing anybody for the broken glass because it was just random acts that were done,” says Worley. “It wasn’t something that you can directly attribute to the party per se. In the case of the paint, it obviously is directly attributable to that.”

PAY DELAYS

While students may have their beef with Facilities over billing policies, ASCMC does not have a particularly stellar track record in paying up to Story House. Worley explains that, in past years, ASCMC has been tardy in paying for damages. and the costs lag over into the next fiscal year. In other words, students have been sacked with paying party damages for which they might not be responsible.

“The previous year’s billing wasn’t paid,” says Worley, “and that saddled the next year's ASCMC budget with the major amount of money to come out of their funds that really had to do with the previous year.”

In May 2011, the total charges to ASCMC amounted to just over $9,864, which included charges for the entire school year as well as leftover charges from previous years. After ASCMC successfully disputed several charges, Facilities settled for $5,000 in February 2012.

This situation is not ideal for either party. The college loses thousands of dollars, and ASCMC is left to foot the bill racked up by graduated classes. Because neither Story House nor ASCMC sets a hard and fast deadline for repayment, the system leaves much room for error in attributing costs to students.

In the meantime, Story House and ASCMC are working to clarify the muddier parts of the process . “We’re trying to move forward to make sure that billings are done in a timely manner and payment from ASCMC is in a timely manner as well,” says Worley.

WORTH IT?

For students, the money going toward damages in the aftermath of a party depletes funds that might otherwise be used for putting on student events—not cleaning up after them. Students have responded by launching campaigns to encourage party clean-up, but none have seem to stuck.

The heaviest of costs, however, are not a result of a few red cups. To limit the cost of damages may be a matter of changing campus culture and perhaps making visible the monetary effects of stealing a chair from Claremont Hall or breaking windows in North Quad.

“Sometimes we become a little concerned that we’re facilitating inappropriate behavior,” says Worley. He elaborated, “We’re cleaning up messes that maybe ought to be seen for a little while rather than hastily cleaned up like it never happened. I become a little bit concerned about that, but again, our charge is just to make the campus functional and presentable."

And the Facilities crew is working to do just that. Ironically or not, Story House is just a few coats of paint away from restoring campus back to normal.